Touring exhibition: Transformations: Art of the Scott Sisters

Harriet and Helena Scott were two of 19th-century Australia’s most prominent natural history illustrators

Tailed Emperor by Helena Scott

Tailed Emperor by Helena Scott
Photographer:  © Australian Museum

About the exhibition

Beautiful and intricate, this stunning exhibition features up to 50 professionally mounted and framed watercolours, as well as rarely-seen notebooks, handwritten manuscripts, sketches and letters, which together form a fascinating record of the lives of Harriet (Hattie) and Helena (Nellie) Scott.

Turn back the pages as you uncover the captivating story of these two extraordinary women whose love of nature and tremendous skill in rendering its beauty enabled them to distinguish themselves amid the male-dominated world of 19th century science. Many of their scientific illustrations are still used by scientists today.

The Scott sisters were among the first to illustrate the life histories and immature stages of Australian moths and butterflies. They were meticulous and understood the biology of their subjects in great detail.

The highlights of the exhibition are watercoloured paintings created between 1846 and 1851 for their father A.W Scott’s landmark publication Australian Lepidoptera and their Transformations.
Considered the finest examples of the sisters’ work, the paintings feature caterpillars in life-like poses, gorgeous butterflies, native flowers and stunning landscapes.

This is a rare chance for visitors to step back in time and absorb these watercolours while admiring the simple beauty of 19th century nature through the eyes of two young women whose pioneering work was praised for both the art and the science. 

Read more about Harriet, Helena, their archives and family here

Helena Scott

History of the exhibition

After originally being on display at the Australian Museum from 3 September to 27 November 2011, Beauty from nature: the Art of the Scott Sisters toured to multiple locations around NSW. In 2017, the exhibition was updated following the display of Transformations: Art of the Scott Sisters at the Museum. This newest iteration of the exhibition now includes refreshed information, multimedia animations and interviews, as well as the interractive 'Art of Science' mobile app. 

Transformation: Art of the Scott Sisters at the Australian Museum (2017)

Exhibition details

Exhibition Specifications: Wall space of 35m for up to 50 single hung frames.

Duration: The exhibition is available for a maximum period of 10 weeks due to conservation requirements. Up to 50 framed original watercoulours are available. A selection of objects are available upon request and dependant on environmental conditions of hosting venues.

Special Requirements: 24 hour security; climate & lighting control; an Australian Museum staff member is required to attend install.

Accompanying Material Available: Graphics package, video footage and high res images of Ash Island.

The Art of Science App: Explore the art of Harriet and Helena Scott through this specially-designed, interractive app. Your visitors can read biographies, learn about butterfly and moth species, and explore over 100 interactive illustrations. The app is free for all users. See more about the app here.


Education Resources

Educate and engage your audiences with these exciting education programs.

Borrow our Insects Museum in a Box®. Each box contains a collection of real Museum specimens and objects, education resources, dioramas and information.

Conduct field studies and invertebrate surveys using our Bugwise resources.

Connect with us virtually. Access the Australian Museum's collection and experts through our video conferences.


Louise Teteris

Project Coordinator – Touring Exhibitions

Touring Itinerary

Louise Teteris , Project Coordinator – Touring Exhibitions
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